• Home
  • News
  • Calendar
  • About DF/HCC
  • Membership
  • Visitor Center

DF/HCC Nodal Awards announced

DF/HCC offers a multitude of funding opportunities to its members to encourage and enhance the collaborative spirit of research within the Harvard medical community. Nodal Awards were specifically designed to enhance or create new “nodal point” interactions between disease- and discipline-based DF/HCC research programs. The Cancer Center also has a particular interest in funding projects that focus on eliminating cancer disparities.

Nodal Awards are a maximum of $75,000 per year for two years ($150,000 in total direct costs), with full indirect costs. Three awards were announced in the last quarter:

A novel therapeutic strategy for colon cancers expressing mutationally activated K-RAS
PI: Kevin Haigis, PhD (MGH)
Collaborator: Nathanael Gray, PhD (DFCI)

The future of colon cancer therapy lies in personalized molecular medicine, where physicians tailor an individual’s treatment to the mutations that have occurred in their cancer. Such an approach requires targeted therapies corresponding to specific oncogenic mutations. Almost half of all colorectal cancers have activating mutations in K-RAS and these mutations are among the best predictive biomarkers for the failure of a cancer to respond to both conventional and targeted therapies. No targeted therapies exist to treat KRAS-mutant cancers. Studies indicate that a novel, therapeutically relevant signaling pathway mediates the oncogenic properties of K-RAS in colorectal cancers. The team has recently identified a small molecule kinase inhibitor, BAY61-3606, that suppresses proliferation in cells expressing activated K-RAS, but not in isogenic cells expressing wild-type K-RAS. In this project, the team will focus on three aims designed to accelerate the development of this novel inhibitor of K-RAS signaling: to identify the relevant molecular target of BAY61-3606; to generate derivatives of BAY61-3606 with improved biological activity; and to measure the in vivo activity of BAY61-3606 and its biologically active derivatives. The ultimate goal is to develop an inhibitor of K-RAS signaling that can be used as an anti-cancer therapy in humans. To this end, it will be critical to identify the inhibitor with the best pharmacologic properties in vivo. In year 2 of the Nodal Award project, the team will initiate preclinical studies for BAY61-3606 and its biologically active derivatives by measuring the PK and determining the effects on the growth of colon cancer xenografts.

Hospital Readmission, Patient-Centered Nursing Care, and Cancer Disparities
Co-PIs: Laurel Radwin, RN, PhD (UMB) and Sanja Percac-Lima, MD, PhD (MGH)
Collaborators: Karen Donelan, EdM ScD (MGH); Amy Rex-Smith, DNSc (UMB); and Jan Mutchler, PhD (UMB)

In this project, the goal is to study racial and ethnic disparities in patient-centered nursing care, patient trust, HRQOL outcomes, readmission rates and emergency room use. A new DF/HCC node will be created, and scientists and clinicians with proven track records in studying cancer care quality and disparities will join together. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between patient characteristics (race, ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic status), cancer patient outcomes (post-discharge hospital utilization, trust, health-related quality of life), specialty care, and patient-centered nursing care for cancer patients hospitalized within the DF/HCC system. This study is significant because there is very little research on the equitable distribution of nursing care in general and patient-centered cancer nursing care more specifically. Nursing care needs to be examined in order to eliminate cancer disparities. If patient-centered nursing care is equitably distributed, then this care can be leveraged to enhance the quality of patient-centered care to racial and ethnic minorities. If disparities exist in patient-centered nursing care, then practices can be devised to address the inequities. Potential translations of the findings of this study include metrics for monitoring the equity of nursing care, quality improvement projects, clinical education offerings, and policies and procedures to elimination barriers to equal care. Targeted system interventions can be based on study findings and tested in future studies.

Reactivating Apoptosis in Melanoma by Selective Targeting of MCL-1
PI: Loren Walensky, MD, PhD (DFCI)
Collaborators: F. Stephen Hodi, MD (DFCI) and Jeffrey Supko, PhD (MGH)

The lifetime risk for developing melanoma is currently 1 in 65, with the annual incidence increasing at a rate of 4% per year. Surgical excision is curative for most patients who present with relatively thin lesions, and when disease is limited to the primary site, ten-year survival rates range from 60-90%. For patients with lymph node metastases, adjuvant therapy with α-interferon affords a modest increase in overall survival, but this advantage is associated with substantial toxicities. For patients with metastatic disease, there is little convincing evidence that any standard systemic therapy prolongs life. This project represents a new multidisciplinary and inter-institutional effort to apply a breakthrough chemical biology approach to target a key resistance factor in melanoma. By combining the team’s extensive background and knowledge of chemical and apoptosis biology, melanoma biology, cutaneous oncology, and clinical pharmacology, this pilot project is laser-focused on developing and validating a new therapeutic modality for treating chemoresistant melanoma. Importantly, this project was inspired by the life of an astoundingly talented, ebullient, and courageous young girl who died from metastatic melanoma at age fifteen. She challenged the team to find an antidote for this devastating disease; this collaboration represents the commitment to fulfilling her vision of a world without fatal melanoma.